The article by I. P. C. Mendis titled "Eelam Goal- More than one way to skin a cat" in The Island of 12.8.03 is a timely reminder of the perils that lurk in the constitutional processes that will be gone through in settlement of the ethnic issue, after the military action has concluded. I gathered three points of note from his letter.
How very fortunate Sri Lanka was that the UNF Administration of Ranil Wickremesinghe was ousted in 2004, and Chandrika Kumaratunga was ousted in 2005. Had those two administrations continued for much longer, the likelihood of an LTTE Administration/Govt. in the North and East coming into existence as a legally established entity would have been a real possibility. One can reasonably surmise that such a catastrophe could have befallen the country had a Ranil/Kumaratunga Govt. continued for a few more years, by having regard to the following:
a) Balasingham’s remark (referred to by IPC press conference in 2002, that "Ranil was PM of the South, and Prabhakaran was PM of the North".
b) The demarcation of a "LTTE controlled" territory in writing for the first time (also referred to by IPCM), that is via the CFA, thus perhaps making a ‘de facto’ position (which was, and could be only temporary) a ‘de jure’ one.
c) The treacherous aspect of this CFA and the dangerous consequences it could have had, had the Ranil/ Kumaratunga Govt. lasted a few more years is seen by the next item. This is the Kosovo UDI event. Kosovo’s declaration of Independence was recognised almost immediately by the Western powers. Its background, that is the ground situation of the Kosovo rebels was little different to the LTTE’s ground position as conceded by the CFA terms. The possibilities had the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime lasted, are too horrendous to imagine!
The possibility exists that the Karuna-Pillaiyan acceptance of the provincial council system is temporary and that they could manoeuvre events easily towards secession "without a shot being fired", as IPCM says. One cannot rule out such a denouement considering they have Kosovo, W. Irian and now the Georgia-Ossetia issue as examples. Absolute sagacity is required.
Much of the political sagacity needed will now pivot around the implementation aspects of the Thirteenth Amendment. The main issue as IPCM quite correctly says, "is the extent of devolution in respect of land, land settlement, law and order, to wit police powers".
In this regard, in a letter to the "Daily Mirror" of 01.07.03, I stated that in my view the following considerations should be noted in the matter of land and police powers to provincial councils, namely:
1. The artificiality of current provincial boundaries which the British demarcated purely on the basis of administrative convenience and not on population/ethnic distribution or geography.
2. Land scarcity. Provinces other than the North and East have heavy population density, and attendant problems. Hence, unrestricted provincial council control of land/land settlements could result in distribution imbalances that could affect the Sinhala and Muslim communities in the North and East.
3. Hence a district-wise land authority for land distribution with some central control over it by the provincial council, and some central govt. control over the provincial council may be considered. This district-wise land control is a proposal made sometime back by the excellent analyst Neville Laduwahetty and needs careful attention.
4. The coast, seashore, offshore and maritime areas, ports, harbours, waterways, must remain under Central Govt. control. Also foreign aid.
5. Police powers need to be given to provincial councils with some central overall control, a National Police Commission or whatever so as to have some uniformity as regards crime and punishment etc. islandwide.
I. P. C. Mendis’ article is timely and cautionary. As regards the cautionary aspects of devolution, attention needs to be drawn to the brilliant speech made by eminent President’s Counsel H. L. de Silva on the occasion of the Lalith Athulatmudali Oration on 20.11.05. It is a masterly analysis of the dangers of federalism in all its aspects. The APRC must study that speech thoroughly for necessary action.
I would like Anandasangaree, too, to read, mark and digest that analysis and rethink his yen for federalism.